Stop and Smell the Roses

The past couple of months have started to tell me that I need to slow down and just think about things. I’ve had a number of issues brought to me through my line of work where the solution is one that they themselves were perfectly capable of figuring out quite quickly, but their inability to stop and smell the roses led them to overthinking it and not seeing that the issue was them. It amazes me when someone is too short-sighted that they are unable to find the obvious solution in front of them, but as I really think about that, I think about how I too find myself doing that.

Here is one of the interesting scenarios. For the longest time one of the companies I assist has been handling their phone lines via a number of different places. It really came down to cost over convenience as the idea was to find a cheap service that worked well enough rather than ensuring that it was a great service. Over the years this became a point of contention as numerous downtime incidents led to frustration that ultimately came down to a concentrated effort to focus on bringing everything to one or two services depending on the situation.

We ported numbers over to a new service provider whom we believe is perfect for us since we personally know someone involved in the company and they have never steered us wrong in the past. During this time, we decided to port a fax number over to them as well since they are able to take the incoming fax and export it as a PDF file via email. When that was set up, a member of the team would test it and find out it’s not working.

On Friday, they let me know that it wasn’t working. I’m not in charge of that anymore; they have their own support team that they use. I don’t have any access as the entire point was for me not to manage any of it anymore. I tell her I don’t have any access and to let our contact know. She does so and lets me know that she’ll test it on Monday again, since we were a bit busy Friday afternoon.

This morning she sends off an email to our contact, CCing me in the process, saying that the fax still isn’t work. It’s not being received.

Ok. This isn’t my area to debug, but I decide to take a stab at it. I check online for free fax testing services and send a fax to the number. Friday after I had indicated I didn’t have any access, our contact did give me a login where I could take a look and manage things if I needed to, but that they were more than happy to handle it for me. I log in and check and can see a successful fax. Things are working.

I then look into her specific incident.

Here is where I realize that she needed to stop and smell the roses:

When she would send a fax message, she would receive an email indicating whether it was successful or not. When she sent a test on Friday, she did not receive that email. This prompted her to think the fax did not get sent out.

This morning she did the same thing. No notification. She concluded again that there was an issue.

I checked the fax server’s log. It was received. It was successful. I took a moment to think “how is she sending the fax?”

It was through a service named “HelloFax”. The service had a free tier where you could send a free fax to someone. When she sends the fax, it will send an email to indicate the status, but this was not an account that she had set up. The account she was using was someone else’s, and they had set it up to forward those specific email messages when they came since she was the one that sent faxes.

The error was in two areas:

  1. She mistakenly believed that not receiving that email meant that the fax was not working. It only meant that she was not receiving the email.
  2. A change was made with the email address that the account was set up which caused the forwarding to stop working.

I changed it to forward directly to her rather than being a second forward in a chain, causing the issue to be resolved. It turns out there was no problem with the fax server at all, even from the very start.

If she had taken a moment to stop and smell the roses, she may have realized it could be an issue unrelated to the new service. If I had taken a moment to think on Friday, it would’ve been incredibly transparent what was going on.

For the past three or so years I have felt like my professional career has become complete chaos. I am constantly looking to move to the next thing once I finish something as there is always another important project to take care of. Very rarely do I finish something and wonder “what’s next?” There is usually already another two or three things stacked on top of me, requiring me to work at a fast pace on everything. As a direct result of this, I am not taking a moment to just look at something to determine if it makes sense. Does it work? Yes. Don’t need to think about it.

When something goes wrong, it is a lot harder to figure it out since I am not thinking about things as I am doing them. I have to then think about what I did when I worked on it and it takes longer to diagnose something since the job wasn’t done the most effective of efficient way from the very start. It was done acceptably as quickly as possible.

This morning I think is the first time in a while where I have reflected on something I set up and saw the issues that could arise rather than the ones that are arising. As a result, I simplified the way that the forwarder worked in order to reduce the chance of miscommunication.

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